Wonderful World

May 25th, 2022 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News


The other day Wonderful World finished sixth in a fairly valuable seven-furlong handicap at Goodwood. He moved up threateningly two furlongs out but faded soon afterwards and ended up just behind Gisburn, who also beat him, by a similar margin, when they were juveniles.

As Wonderful World is trained by Mick Channon, there was optimism in owner George Materna’s box afterwards and it did indeed look as if the horse had another victory in him, possibly over six furlongs.

An hour or two later, the strangely-named Sows finished third in a modest sprint handicap. A few weeks ago she moved from Richard Hannon to Malcolm Saunders and left all previous form behind with a startling fifth (at 200/1) in a Listed sprint at Bath. Handicaps are more her game and the trainer, a dab hand with sprinters going all the way back to the classy Repertory, will undoubtedly win a race or two with her. He has hit form, with Ruby Cottage and Bluebell Time both winning recently.

I sat there listening to Mick, thinking of the times I saw him play  –  a few hundred at a conservative estimate  –  and filling in one or two details he may have missed. We go back a long way, having both been born in November 1948; in fact Mick, Prince Charles and I arrived within 14 days of each other, which is a useful fact when it comes to after-dinner speaking, because I can say it’s good to know that two of us have made it big. I was the only one born on a match day, though, Southampton beating Bury 2-0 with Ted Bates scoring one of the goals. Naturally my dad, who was at the game, was very nervous; it was still 0-0 at half-time.

Malcolm Saunders trained many horses, the best of them Indian Maiden and the most prolific Lockstock, for my friend Chris Scott, a self-made Bristol businessman who started off driving a fish wagon and ended up running Saunders (no relation) Foods behind Temple Meads station. Mick trained for him, too, starting off with King’s Stand winner Piccolo, in whom Chris had a quarter-share.

Some eighteen months ago, when Covid hit Chris quite brutally, he was able to ring a friend from hospital and tell him, in a matter of fact way, that things weren’t going too well; in fact it all looked ‘a bit fifty-fifty’. He didn’t make it and family and friends are still trying to come to grips with a savage blow no one could have predicted.

On September 8 last year they organised a lunch to celebrate his life and it just so happened that Wonderful World was running at Doncaster. Very few of those present knew (until I told them) that as a yearling the horse was intended for Chris. When fate intervened, Mick offered him to George Materna and there have been two wins so far, at Brighton (I’m pleased to say) and Doncaster.

George named him Wonderful World after the Louis Armstrong hit from many years ago, which was played at his wedding to Anne-Marie on Mauritius. They have five daughters, all of whom turn up at Goodwood once a year, preferably when he has a horse running.

Mick is laughing uproariously (at one of his own jokes, probably). I think of him going down the left at seventeen and scoring all those goals in 1972-73, when we still went down, and Youmzain coming second in three successive Arcs. And then I remember Haydock and that summer’s day in 2005 when Indian Maiden ran away with the Cecil Frail and Chris and Malcolm ordered champagne, chuckling away like errant schoolboys, and I think to myself old Louis had it just about right.

Well, most of the time, anyway.